Island Explorer

7 Days

castleroute map

Departure Dates

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Adult $579.00
Student $559.00
Prices in US Dollars

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Orkney, Skye, Loch Ness & St Andrews

Departs Edinburgh

Scottish icons galore! An unforgettable trip which takes in two of Scotland's most famous islands, the Isle of Skye and Orkney with their dramatic mountain scenery and ancient archaeological sites are made all the more stunning by their remoteness. There's also St Andrews, international home of golf and the Jacobite Steam Train also know as 'The Hogwarts Express'. Mixed with traditional Scottish music and the chance to enjoy fantastic local seafood, this trip has something for everyone.

Highlights

  • Isle of Skye’s awe-inspiring scenery
  • Jacobite Steam Train (as seen in Harry Potter)
  • Historic St Andrews, home of golf
  • Orkney and Skara Brae Stone Age village
  • Amazing Tomb of the Eagles
  • Eilean Donan Castle
  • Glencoe, the 'Weeping Glen'
  • Stay Wild and plant a tree in ‘HAGGiS Grove’

Inclusions

  • Your legendary local HAGGiS Guide
  • All transport around Scotland in the famous yellow HAGGiS bus
  • All ferry charges
  • Visit to a Highland whisky distillery
  • Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones
  • Visit to the Italian Chapel
  • Tree planting at the ‘HAGGiS Grove’ (weather permitting)

Optional

  • Jacobite Steam Train*
  • Skara Brae Stone Age Village
  • Tomb of the Eagles
  • 'Pay as you go' or 'Pay Now' Accommodation

(see 'tour options' tab for more info)

Free time

  • Go monster spotting on a Loch Ness cruise
  • Dance Scottish-style at a Highland Ceilidh
  • Taste great fish and chips in Kirkwall
  • Learn a ‘peedie’ bit of Orcadian dialect

Day 1: Edinburgh to Inverness

Departs 8.15am. We leave our capital city, past the mighty Forth Bridge, on to the Fife coast and the university town of St. Andrews where golf was invented and Kate and Wills first met. Then we head north to the mountains and into the Cairngorms National Park. Time to sample a wee dram of Scotland’s favourite national drink at a Highland whisky distillery and see how this fine drop is made. Inverness, the capital of the Highlands is our home for the night.

Day 2: Inverness to Orkney

We continue our journey north passing the Moray Firth, home to bottlenose dolphins and minke whales and on to the tip of the British mainland, John O'Groats. We board the ferry to sail over the Pentland Firth to Orkney with more archaeological ruins in one area than anywhere else in Europe.  We visit the local gem, Tomb of the Eagles, a Stone Age chamber filled with thousands of human bones and the remains of sea eagles from many millennia ago. 

Day 3: Orkney

Today we head off to explore Skara Brae, dating from the late Neolithic period and inhabited between 3,200BC and 2,200BC. This incredible stone village is made up of eight dwellings (some still containing original furniture) linked together by a series of low alleyways and is a marvel of ancient building techniques. Then we visit the magnificent standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar and the Italian Chapel built by 550 Italian POW's in the Second World War.

Day 4: Orkney to Loch Ness

We bid Orkney farewell, make the ferry crossing back to the mainland and begin our journey south through Scotland’s rugged terrain. We travel through the sparsely populated wilderness of Sutherland and Caithness, via glens left deserted as a result of the Highland Clearances. Our journey takes us past the ruins of Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness and we take time to go monster spotting, just in case! Get ready for a big night in Mo's Bar at Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness.

Day 5: Isle of Skye

Today we Stay Wild and visit HAGGiS Grove (weather permitting) to plant a tree and help restore our native forest. Then, passing Eilean Donan Castle, we head on to explore the Isle of Skye also known as the ‘winged isle’ or ‘Isle of Mist’. Ruined castles, awesome scenery and home to the legendary MacLeod and MacDonald Clans. Immersed in Celtic myths and Viking legends, hear tales abound with faeries and fights as we explore the windswept landscape and rugged coastline in the shadow of the stunning Cuillin mountain ranges.

Day 6: Skye to Oban

A spectaular ferry journey from Skye back to the mainland and travel the amazing 'Road to the Isles' past Glenfinnan Monument and see the train as it also crosses the viaduct featured in the Harry Potter film. Alternatively, take the chance to travel on the steam train that inspired the 'Hogwarts Express' on a journey often voted the most spectacular train journey in the world.  From Fort William in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, we head to Oban known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ because of its amazing views over to Mull. Tonight, dance your tartan pants off with some traditional dancing at a ceilidh!

Day 7: Oban to Edinburgh

We head for eerie Glencoe, home to some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery and setting of the infamous 1692 massacre, but more recently a backdrop in the movie ‘Skyfall’. Further south we enter Rob Roy country where the landscape changes from the Highlands to the Lowlands. Our journey back to Edinburgh takes in views of magnificent Stirling Castle and the mighty Wallace Monument. Returns approximately 5.00pm.

Choose It

We know you’re travelling on a budget so you should spend your cash how you want to. We’ve included a handful of our favourite highlights but with others, you’re free to include them or not. Pay for your accommodation and optional add-ons with our ‘Pay Now’ service or just ‘Pay As You Go’ directly to suppliers on arrival, subject to availability. The choice is yours.

Pre-Pay Bundle - Pay for your accommodation and listed add-ons at the time of booking. Faster check in, easier to budget on tour and exclusive tour t-shirt.

Or

Pay As You Go – Pay for your accommodation and add-ons directly to the establishments on arrival each day. Dorm accommodation is guaranteed, add-ons are subject to availability.

Accommodation On Tour

No stress, you’re accommodation is booked in the best hostels available!

Whether you chose to ‘Pre-Pay’ or ‘Pay As You Go’, we book hostel multi-share accommodation in small dorms (generally 4 to 6 bed dorms).

Private Room Upgrades can be selected under our ‘Pay Now’ service, subject to availability. The majority of private rooms are of the same standard as the hostel dorms and accommodated within the same building as the rest of the group. Where this is not possible, you may be required to make your own way to you accommodation located a short walk away from the main drop off point.

Optional Add Ons

Jacobite Steam Train

Featured in a number of the Harry Potter movies as ‘The Hogwarts Express’, the Jacobite Steam Train is a spectacular journey through some of Scotland’s most dramatic coastal scenery. Voted as the best train journey in the world by Wanderlust magazine readers for several years, the 42 mile trip is certainly worth considering as a trip add-on!

Reserve separately at time of booking, not available locally*

Skara Brae Stone Age Village

No trip to Orkney is complete without a visit to Skara Brae Stone Age Village, part of a World Heritage site. A Neolithic settlement dating back 5000 years which gives a fantastic insight into prehistoric living.

Included in Pre-Pay Bundle

Tomb of the Eagles

A unique ‘hands-on’ experience! Perched above dramatic cliffs, the Isbister Chambered Cairn is better known today as the ‘Tomb of the Eagles’! Discovered by chance by local farmer Ronnie Simison in the 1950s, the Stone Age tomb revealed an amazing collection of bones and artefacts. More than 50 years after Ronnie Simison came across these remarkable sites, his family invite you to come and enjoy these well-loved visitor attractions.

Included in Pre-Pay Bundle

 

*The Jacobite Steam Train has limited availability and operates seasonally from late May to September. Outside the Train operating season the route off Skye will vary and may not include the ferry or Road to the Isles